FEB 13, 2013 10:40am ET

President Obama Renews Call for Refi Bill

FEB 13, 2013 10:40am ET
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For the second consecutive State of the Union speech, President Obama called for legislation that would allow struggling homeowners to refinance their mortgages and take advantage of lower interest rates.

In a speech almost entirely devoted to other issues, Obama said the housing markets were “healing,” noting that “home prices are rising at the fastest pace in six years.”

But he said Congress must do more, and urged lawmakers to pass a pending bill that would make it easier for homeowners to refinance their homes.

“Even with mortgage rates near a 50-year low, too many families with solid credit who want to buy a home are being rejected,” Obama said. “Too many families who have never missed a payment and want to refinance are being told no.  That’s holding our entire economy back, and we need to fix it.”

Obama’s comments echoed statements in last year’s State of the Union address when he initially raised the idea of a refinance bill.

Since that time, however, little progress has been made. Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Barbara Boxer of California reintroduced a bill last week that would help borrowers with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac mortgages to refinance.

The bill stalled last year over a dispute about whether other housing-related amendments could be added to the legislation.

Obama said there was no reason for the bill to remain in limbo.

“Right now, there’s a bill in this Congress that would give every responsible homeowner in America the chance to save $3,000 a year by refinancing at today’s rates,” Obama said. “Democrats and Republicans have supported it before.  What are we waiting for?  Take a vote, and send me that bill.  Right now, overlapping regulations keep responsible young families from buying their first home.  What’s holding us back?  Let’s streamline the process, and help our economy grow.”

But Obama’s speech was devoid of any new proposals, either related to housing or other financial services issues. Since the passage of Dodd-Frank in 2010, Obama has steadily dialed back any mention of financial services issues in his State of the Union addresses. According to the written text of Obama’s remarks, this year’s speech did not even mention banks or Wall Street.